Death by cold-cuts? Canadian Ag Minister not as funny as he thinks he is

Michael McCain, the president and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods made a strategic decision once his company decided to handle the growing listeria mess in Canada by saying this wasn’t about government, it was about his company: he effectively cut himself loose from bizarre to self-congratulatory to purely political messages from government and bureaucrats.

That decision looks real smart tonight.

CTV.ca is reporting that during a conference call with scientists, bureaucrats and political staff on Aug. 30, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said, after fretting about the political dangers of the Listeria scare, he quipped:

"This is like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts."

Then when told of a death in Prince Edward Island, Ritz said, "Please tell me it’s (Liberal MP) Wayne Easter."

Easter is the Liberal agriculture critic and has called for Ritz’s resignation over his handling of the outbreak, which was linked to a Maple Leaf Foods meat processing plant north of Toronto.

Kory Teneycke, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office, said Ritz expressed regret over his remarks to Stephen Harper but there was no suggestion of resigning.

Ritz said,

"My comments were tasteless and completely inappropriate. I apologize unreservedly."

Canoe news reports that Ritz was "less contrite when he was asked about his comments after his flight from Saskatoon touched down at the Ottawa airport Wednesday afternoon".

A bearded man with Ritz jostled with journalists as the agriculture minister beelined through the terminal to a waiting sedan. At one point the man grabbed a reporter’s recorder and jabbed at the off button.

For two minutes Ritz stared dead ahead as he was peppered with questions about the conference call. His only words were clipped.

"Not right now, guys," he said.

Then: "Get out of my face, please."